Two Days, Two Birds
My first turkey-hunting client for the spring season of 2006 was a gentleman named Tommy Jackson. Tommy is a preacher from Texas and he and I shared a great turkey hunt together in Missouri.
The first morning of our hunt found us at the property well before daylight. When we pulled into the farm that morning we could see a massive thunderstorm coming straight at us, so we sat in the truck for a while and watched as the storm barreled down on us from the west. The lightening was pretty intense and we just sat there, in the dark and watched for a little without saying too much. I had scouted the farm several times and had seen a number of great gobblers strutting in a big field across the creek on the northern side of the farm. Finally, Tommy broke the silence and said that he didn’t think he wanted to go out in the storm and my reply was “ I know I don’t want too”. We both agreed that getting a bird wasn’t worth taking a chance on getting fried by one of the lightening bolts, so I suggested that we go and get some breakfast up at Bubba’s café. On the way to Bubba’s place we were bombarded by the rain and wind and we were glad we let our common sense over rule our first morning excitement.
As we sat there eating our breakfast, the storm pounded the diner for a while, and then started to pass. Around 7am the stormed subsided. There was still a light rain falling and Tommy and I headed back to the property. We had a popup ground blind sitting in the back corner of the field and I told Tommy we could cross the creek and get in that if there weren’t any birds strutting in the field when we got there. There weren’t any birds in the field so we crossed the ankle deep creek and headed for the blind. I guess the storm had the birds running behind schedule too. I had been watching a group of four gobblers in the field for the past week, and shortly after getting in the blind they came out into the field several hundred yards away. As the birds were headed in our direction anyway, I just let them come on their own without calling. Finally, they decided to head to the opposite corner, so I started calling and the birds responded by heading our way. Once these birds get out in the field, its pretty tough to get them come close enough to the edge to get a shot at them. I started calling to those birds at 8 am that morning. They would come in and hang up around seventy to eighty yards away and basically refuse to come any closer. Then they would begin to drift off, but when I would call to them again, they would turn and come towards us but would never cross close enough for us to shoot them. Finally, around noon, the group of gobblers disappeared around a point and I told Tommy we could slip out of the blind, drop down in a creek bed and get out in front of them. It had quit raining by that time and we were able to make our way up the creek without making any sound at all. When we eased up to the edge of the field the birds weren’t there. Tommy ask me where I thought they had went and I told him they were probably standing there in front of our blind, so we snuck back down the creek bed and sure enough, there they stood, about thirty yards from the blind. I looked at my watch and it was twenty minutes till one. You have to stop hunting in Missouri at 1pm so I knew we had to do something a little radical, or the show was over. I had Tommy sneak into position behind a big tree on the creek bank where he could see the birds. Over the course of the morning, whenever I would call, the birds would head our way, but would always hang up before they got close enough to shoot. I couldn’t see the birds but told Tommy to tell me if they started heading our way, and as soon as I started calling, he said they were coming. I immediately started walking away from them, up the creek, clucking as I went. I had gone about 50 yards when the shotgun blast echoed through the bottom. I raced back down the creek and was greeted by one happy hunter. He said all four of the gobblers strutted right up to him, following the hen that was going away from them. It was 12:50. After some back slapping and high fives, we gathered the bird up and headed towards the truck. When we got to the creek that was ankle deep when we crossed it that morning, we found a swollen, muddy torrent. There were only two options. One was to walk about five miles and the other was to cross it. I took everything I had in my pants pockets, put it in my turkey vest, and waded out into the water. At its deepest point it was about waist high. I convinced Tommy to do the same and assured him we could lock arms and get across the creek without incident, which we did.
The following morning found us back at the same property again. Even though the birds roosted down in the creek bottom, I had seen several birds, up on a hill, in the corner of a field, strutting. Something I learned a long time ago, was if you found a strutting zone that the birds were comfortable with, all you had to do was sit up there and wait. We headed up the hill to the corner and put out a stuffer hen. I also set up a Jake decoy about ten feet behind her. The only place we had to sit was in the brushy fencerow in the corner and I put up a portable blind. After Tommy got situated behind the blind, I crawled into the brush directly behind him.
One of the great things about spring gobbler hunting is watching and listening as a new day is born. As daylight approached, we were greeted by a spectacular sunrise, owls hooting everywhere around us and gobblers, announcing there presence to the world, down in the bottom several hundred yards away. Tommy ask me why I didn’t start calling, and I told him just to be patience! When I thought it was about time for them to start coming off the roost, I ripped out a series of aggressive yelps and cuts until several of the birds answered us. Within minutes, we could tell several birds were on their way, so I shut up again. I’m kind of from the old school when it come to calling turkeys and definitely believe you can call too much As the birds got closer, I could tell Tommy thought I should be calling more but I waited until the birds broke out in the field, 150 yards down the fencerow from us. The decoys were hidden from their sight by a small rise in the field, so I gave them a few quiet yelps. They thundered back their approval and headed out into the cornfield. There were two of them and just as they reached the point that they should be able see the decoys from, they split up. One of them turned towards us and the other headed out of sight. The bird coming toward us hadn’t seen the decoys yet but I told Tommy to get his gun up on the shooting stick I had brought along and to get ready. The bird was strutting towards us and gobbling a couple times a minute and the second he saw the decoys, he broke down and started coming hard. When he reached the grass strip where we had the decoys set up, he put on a show that either one of us will never forget. It seems that these adult gobblers just hate thinking about a Jake getting in on their action and more often than not will respond very aggressively to a Jake decoy. This boy puffed up, gobbled and strutted right between the Jake and the hen decoy. Then he walked up to the Jake, puffed up again and circled the decoy, actually rubbing up against it. I whispered to Tommy to take the first opportunity he had and when the bird made it around the other side of the decoy, he stuck his head out and Tommy let him have it. It doesn’t get much better than that. Two days, two birds, a chance to witness nature’s beauty and getting to share it all with a new found friend. Here’s to you Tommy! I see you in a couple months!